Directing Actors - Achieving Natural Performances for Independent Film | Fred Zara | Skillshare

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Directing Actors - Achieving Natural Performances for Independent Film

teacher avatar Fred Zara, Director • Producer • Writer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (44m)
    • 1. DirectingActorsTrailer

    • 2. Introduction and Overview

    • 3. What does the Director do?

    • 4. Don’t do that - Part 1

    • 5. Don’t do that - Part 2

    • 6. Things to do - Part 1

    • 7. Things to do - Part 2

    • 8. Other things to try

    • 9. The Recap

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About This Class

20 year independent film veteran, Fred Zara, teaches this course which is designed to help independent film directors gain a better understanding of how best to communicate and work with actors. Working with actors can be somewhat of a mystery for some filmmakers and it can also be intimidating to work with an experienced actor if you yourself do not have a lot of experience as a director.

If you are looking for more natural performances for your independent films to help you become a more effective storyteller, this course is for you. Some independent filmmakers simply do not have the necessary tools to help actors craft their characters and to best highlight the actor's strengths.

Topics we will cover in this course are:

  • Things to do and not to do when working with actors
  • Communication tips when working with actors on set
  • Different ways to prepare with your Actors before shooting begins
  • How to use your words effectively
  • Other tips and things to try to help actors achieve their best performance
  • Strengthening the Director/Actor relationship

In this course students will learn how to collaborate better with their actors to help them achieve more believable performances in their films.


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Fred Zara

Director • Producer • Writer


Hi there! My name is Fred Zara and I've been involved in the film community for 20 years. I am an award winning independent film director and writer and have had my work screened all over the world. I also spent over seven years as an educational content creator for an online technology school.

My 2009 feature length documentary, Average Community, which chronicled my early days in Trenton, NJ, won awards at festivals in Philadelphia, Orlando, and NYC. In March of 2016, my narrative feature film, Read Me, premiered in New York City at the Queens World Film Festival.

In 2020, I will release his third feature film, The Suicide of James Rider, which is based on the real life suicide of one of my close friends back in 2001. The film premiered at the New York City Independent F... See full profile

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1. DirectingActorsTrailer: Hi, I'm Fred Zara. I've been making independent films for 20 years. As independent filmmakers, budgets are usually pretty tight. We can always pull off elaborate special effects or get our hands on fancy locations. But one thing we can stay focused on is our actors. And making sure we do our best to help our actors work towards the most believable and memorable performance as possible. As the saying goes, 90% of directing is casting. And although that may be true, actors still need a director, a guide, and that's where you come in. Have you ever watched an interview with an actor as they talk about working with a particular director and how grateful they are to that director for helping them craft a memorable performance in their career. And you said to yourself, well, that's the kinda director. I want to be great. Me too. In this short focused course, I'll walk you through different ways to help you communicate and collaborate with your actors to help gain their trust and to help free them up to do the best work that they can. 2. Introduction and Overview: Hello and welcome to my course, directing actors and achieving natural performances for independent film. My name is Fred Zara. I've been making independent films for 20 years. This course is specific to filmmaking. Some techniques may apply to both working with actors in theater and film. However, most of my work has been in film and that's where I'd like to keep this course focused. Topics we'll cover in this course are things to do and not to do when working with actors. Communication tips. When working with actors, onset. Different ways to prepare with your actors before shooting begins. How to use your words affectively. Other tips and things you could try to help achieve the best performance is from your actors. Strengthening the director actor relationship. In 2005, I was directing a scene for an early short film of mine. I can clearly remember one of the actors in the scene expressing to me that he wasn't feeling connected at all to the scene and that he was really troubled by it and he didn't know how to move forward. My instinct at the time was to simply be very encouraging and to let him know that I thought he was doing a great job. Now, that's not a bad instinct. As, as directors, we should be positive and encouraging to our cast. However, what really bothered me is he was right. He wasn't doing the best work you could have done. And what was worse? I had absolutely no idea how to address it or had Help. It was then when I realized I hadn't given enough respect to the craft of acting or directing for that matter. And I really needed to immerse myself in the actor director relationship and build up a toolbox for directing actors if I ever wanted to tell my stories effectively. One thing I started to realize is the role of a film director is somewhat of a mystery to a lot of people. And that's what we're going to pick up in the next video. 3. What does the Director do?: What does a director do? Okay, on a film set, the director is pretty much in charge of everything. But in this course, we're talking about working with actors. So with that in mind, what does a director do? Well, it's simple. The director works with the actors to help tell the story. Period. The director can help find the subtext who has seen will go over more of that in a later video. The Director can help an actor paces seen to fit the directors overall vision for the film. The director can and must set up a safe space onset for actors to feel comfortable and support it. To explore without fear of negative judgments. The director is not there to lie or manipulate their actors in any way. The director is not an acting teacher either. The director collaborates with director to bring the story to life and to bring the characters to life. It's not about using tricks and it's not magic. It's all about communication and support. I think it's important to point out that although this course is about how to more effectively work with actors, there are some things you simply can't teach. What I mean is being a film director that works really well with actors is it's not just a list of Do's and Don'ts. There's a certain temperament. A person needs to have a certain type of empathy, a love, and respect for the craft of acting. I guess what I mean is, unfortunately not everyone is built to be a good director that works well with actors. You really need to be honest with yourself and examined some things. Are you good with people? Are you an effective leader? Can you be patient with someone who is struggling to find their way? Are you a good communicator? Do people trust you? Now you may have heard the saying, 90% of directing is casting. Well, I believe this is completely true. If you take your time to choose your CAS wisely, that is a huge part of the battle. But that doesn't mean you just sit back and simply tell the DEP where to put the camera and let the actors direct themselves. You still need to be a director, but make no mistake about it. You are directing the actors. You're not crafting their performances and pulling emotions out of them. It's an insult to the craft of acting to imply that you as the director or making them a better actor. Now in some cases that may be somewhat true, but you can't think of it that way. You are their guide. You're helping an actor find their performance. But there are still the ones that are bringing it to life. It's important to make that distinction and recognized that there, there is no magic tool chest that you could pull from to make a bad actor into a good actor. Now we'll cover some directing techniques and some do's and don'ts in this course. But again, remember, you're not an acting teacher. You're the director, your storyteller. Think of it this way. Imagine putting a person into a large room blindfolded. The person needs to navigate from one end of the room to another to get out. And say the room is filled with a lot of objects and some of these objects they need to avoid may actually be dangerous. The only way they can get from one end of the room to the other is by listening to the sound of your voice as you guide them through the room. You tell them, take two steps forward. Now stop. Now take three steps to the right. Move forward. Eventually, if they successfully get to the other end of the room by listening to your direction, what that's great. You help them get there. But they are still the ones that made the journey, not you. They are still the ones that put themselves in jeopardy while in the room. They were in danger, not you. They are being asked to be completely naked emotionally in public. And it's your job as the director to make sure that that public space is a safe one. Keep in mind. This is not a, a, a manual for putting together a piece of furniture. There's gonna be a lot of gray area here. A lot of what we'll talk about are ways that I have felt was helpful in directing and working with actors and techniques that I've used that worked well for me, for directing actors. But no two actors are the same. Which means you can't expect to use the same technique for every actor you encounter. Now in my opinion, there still are some definite Do's and Don'ts dip stick by. But rules were made to be broken. So keep that in mind. Don't get stuck in whatever directing technique or style you think is working for you. And forget to just talk to your actor. Like a human being. Most actors I've worked with are extremely intelligent. And if you're trying to play some sort of mind game or manipulation with them, they're going to see it and you're gonna start to lose their trust. So as a director, it's important to keep it true, trustworthy, reliable, understanding, and encouraging. Because at the end of the day, the actor director relationship needs to be all about trust. 4. Don’t do that - Part 1: Okay, let's get into some do's and don'ts when directing actors will start with adults. The first one is a big one. Don't line read. Now for anyone that may not know, a line reading is basically the director reading the exact line word for word from a script to an actor with the exact inflection that you hear it in your head and you would like them to say it. Why is this wrong? Well, let me first say that there are no rights and wrongs. There are just some things you should try to avoid. You may have a relationship with an actor that doesn't mind a line reading. The actor may know you so well that they might even ask for it. However, in most cases, a line reading for an actor is, it's a form of micromanaging. It can feel very heavy handed to the actor and possibly even very stressful that the actor might think that if they don't hit the line exactly the way you want it and the way you line red line tomb that they're going to let you down. It can also really anger an actor. I mean, they are the active inosine, not you. It's, it's their character. It's their choice to decide how their character would say at particular line. It's your job to give them the circumstances in the scene, but they decide how it should be said. And then of course, it's possible if you line read for an actor, the worst thing that could happen, they would do it. And it would most likely come out as like a bed impersonation of what you just did. And now you might get it stuck in their head and you may never be able to get them to say that line naturally. Again. Actors are artists. Let them create, let them play. That's what it's all about. Number two, never tell them No. If an actor has a suggestion, do everything in your power to give it a shot. Now, often onset, there isn't time to play around. You need to make the day. However, it's important to not just shut them down. If they haven't idea, let him know. Yes, I would love to try that. Now. Be up front with them. Tell them I need to make sure I shoot this a certain way to make sure we have everything we need to absolutely put the scene together the right way. But if there's time, if there's time at the end, great. Let's try your idea. I'd loved to give it a shot. It's the old do one for me. I'll do one for you. The idea might be something fresh, something that you never thought of. It. It could be brilliant or it could be crap and it could be something that will never end up in your fill. It doesn't matter. Makes sure they actor feels heard and feels like a collaborator, not just a moving set piece. Number three, don't give actors emotions. Emotions come from inside. When you're given an actor a direction, you need to give them something to do, not feel. Give them actions and objectives to play instead of emotions to feel. Don't tell an actor, you need to be more sad in this scene. What, what does that even mean? What if the actor actually thought they were already really sad? It's confusing. It's just going to result in the actor artificially pushing really hard to give you what they think you want. There are ways to get an actor to try and dig a little deeper. But just by telling them to do more of some emotion is not the way to go about it. Tell an actor to intimidate or bully their scene partner. Give them direction like play with her in this scene, or seduce Him with your words. Words like abuse, reject, command, flatter, mach. These words give the act or something to play with. It gets their creative mind moving. It allows them to decide what does it mean to flirt or intimidate. Again, there, there is no right answer here. One actor could use just their eyes to intimidate or to flirt. While another actor can use their whole body. There's no right way to do this. Try and let the actor decide how their character would best go about this. Because again, it's them on screen, not you. So if you want an actor to appear more sad in a scene, it's likely going to require more creativity from you. Talk to them, ask them what they think the scene is about. Ask them what they think the stakes of the CNR. Remind them where their character just came from and what this scene means to their character. You know, it's possible that they're a little lost in the scene and they're not seeing the scene in the same way you are. Again, it's about communication. It's possible they may need a break. They might need some time to emotionally get to wear. Both of you think they need to be. Some actors can produce emotions of extreme sadness or anger rather quickly. However, other actors need some time. Be supportive and ask them what they need. Now, it is possible that you cast an actor that simply doesn't have the skill set or experienced to pull off what you're looking for. Either way, you simply telling them you need them to be sad or angry is not going to help. You're just going to end up making them act like something. And that's not what you want. You shouldn't get stuck in your head about what you think the scene should be acted like. You're looking for believable performances. So keep your focus there. Don't get hung up on seeing a teardrop in someone's eye or how loud a character raised their voice. Focus on whether or not you believe what that character is going through. 5. Don’t do that - Part 2: Number four, Don't give direction. Just because I know this might sound a little silly, but hear me out. I have seen a lot of inexperienced directors feel like they need to give direction or make an adjustment between takes. Now I will say this, it is really important that when you call cut and you say, you're gonna do it again, it is extremely important that you let the actors know why you're going to do another take. Actors oftentimes can be insecure. So sometimes if they hear a director asking for another take and they don't tell them why. They may assume that it has something to do with their performance. They did something wrong and you hate it what they did, and you just don't have the courage to tell them. Either way. You're going to get them in their heads. So it's extremely important to tell them why you're going to do another take. Now stay positive. But if you're gonna do another take, let them know you're gonna do another take, even if it's just for safety. However, don't just give direction to an actor because, you know, everyone onset is looking at you, the director, to do some director magic and pull some great performance out of there actor. I know that sounds silly, but listen, believe Me, it happens. There's a lot of pressure on a director onset. And oftentimes you can feel the crew members judging you as if something went wrong with that last Hague and everybody knows it and they're looking at you to, I don't know, somehow fix it and do some magic. It can be tempting to give direction to actors in an attempt to look like you know what you're doing. But honestly, don't do that. Have confidence in yourself, who cares, what anyone else thinks? The truth is. Sometimes the only thing that went wrong with that last Hake is the rhythm might have been off, or maybe the rhythm was off in the beginning of the scene. Once you get that part, everything else will fall into place. It might have been first take jitters. There might not have been anything wrong with that last scene. It may not need any adjustment and you just let them do it again without a word from you. And everything might improve already. You need to be really careful about what you say to an actor in the heat of shooting a scene. If you say the wrong thing to an actor, you can get in their head and make things even worse. One time, while I was directing a scene, I really wanted an actor to emphasize a certain word. But instead of trying some creative way of doing this or find the root of why I wanted to hear that word emphasize. I simply told the actor emphasize that word. It was hard. They did exactly what I asked. And every time that word came up, they just artificially said that word louder. They emphasized it for me. If I can come up with some creative way where some technique and trying to get them to get to what I really want it. I should have just left it alone. I'm guessing that eventually they would have found the reason why I wanted it emphasized in the first place and naturally have done it. Make sure you think before you speak. Number five, Don't answer questions. Asked him. This one can be fun. When an actor asks you a question, try and resist the urge to just give them an answer. A lot of directors like to feel like they have all the answers and it's okay not to. You may actually have the answers, but if you always go around telling everyone exactly what you want, well, they're just gonna give it to you. And you could be missing out on what they would do if you had nest them. And honestly, that's where the real gold is. Remember, filmmaking should be collaborative. So if an actor asks you, when should I start heading towards the door in this scene? Your answer should be, I don't know. When do you think you should head towards the door? Now again, you may already have an idea of what you want or it's actually entirely possible that you didn't give any consideration to this. Either way, ask them what they think. It's possible they have this really great idea and they're just hoping that you give them an opportunity to share it. Their idea could be awesome, fun, could be unexpected, something that you never would have thought of. And had you not ask them, you never would have heard it. They would have just done what you told them to do. It's also possible that their suggestion could be terrible. It could be not at all what you want, but still take the time to talk to them about it. Ask them, well, what were you thinking? If their idea is great, wonderful. Use it. If it's not so great, continue talking. Say, OK, interesting. Why would you think of it that way? Now, at this point, you've already involved them in the construction of the scene. So you're already halfway there. Now allow them to try and convince you that their idea might be better than you initially thought. And once they explained there, why? Come around and say, well, yeah, let's try that. And still it might be possible that even after all the talk and has done, their idea still seems terrible. It doesn't matter. This might be one of those situations where you say, OK, what I was thinking is we do it this way and if we have time, let's go ahead and shoot it both ways and make sure you thank them for their idea. I will say there have been times where I've worked with some actors that just like to share their ideas constantly, even if they're just like making them up on the spot. Maybe these actors are or want to be directors, or maybe they just want to see how many of their ideas can end up in the final product. It doesn't really matter. The reason doesn't matter if the Actor asks you a question or has an idea, you need to give them your time. I know time can be short on set. I get him. And sometimes there's just not enough time to take five minutes out to talk to an actor. Just tell them they'll understand. But as much as you can, stop what you're doing and give them your time. In everyday life, if a child stops you and wants to have you watched him sing a song or do a dance. It can be really hard to stop what you're doing and just give them the time and just watch. But you know what? You do it anyway, you stop and you watch. Being a director is a lot like being a parent. Now, I'm not saying actors are like children. Don't take it that way. It's silly. However, what is apparent, what does a parent's role? To be a protector, to be a guide? As a director, you need to do your best to protect your actors from conflict. Friction on second, really mess with an actor's performance. So be on the lookout for people on set that can create a negative environment around your caste. Being an actor is an extremely vulnerable position to be in. So for an actor to know the director, the leader is there at all times to help guide and support them. Well, that can go a long way. So recapping things not to do, don't line read. Never tell an actor, no. Don't give actors emotions. Don't give direction just because don't answer questions. Ask them. 6. Things to do - Part 1: Here are some things you could do that may be effective when working with actors. Number one, everything is a conversation. Like I was saying in a previous video, make everything a conversation. Don't just point and give direct instructions like you're explaining to a company where to set up your couch, talk with your actors. Directing doesn't start onset. It begins the moment you cast an actor in a role, set up some time to talk with your actor before the shoe, in person if possible, but over the phone or video chat will work. But remember, you need to respect their time also. Don't just assume you can meet for coffee once a week leading up to production with your actors. I mean, maybe in the low budget film world, actors would be happy to meet with you a lot. However, the more professional and actor you cast, the more valuable their time becomes. Either way, don't wait until there's a crew full of people on set and a shooting schedule to keep, to begin talking to your actors about the story and backstory and their character. Where did their character come from? Why are they in this situation and listen and see what kind of ideas you're actor has about backstories and motivations. You may end up realizing that if you do enough work upfront with your actor, there may not be a whole lot of directing you need to do on the day of the shoot. You may find yourself saying things like, hey, remember when we talked about the scene, remember how we decided to approach it. And then it turns out most of your direction ends up being a continuation of a conversation that you already started with your actor about the film. Number two, use the magical has if this little two-word phrase can be your best friend when giving direction to an actor. You'll find that by using the as if phrase, it will be easier to avoid given an actor emotions to play. And it can help the actor make specific choices. If you feel like an actor is not bringing enough energy to a scene. Well, you can simply say, let's bring up the energy a bit and short, that could work. However, you might want to try something a little more creative, like, hey, let's try it again. Only. Let's do it this time as if you're running late for work. You might end up getting the result you're looking for while allowing the actor to bring it out from within them. If you want an actor to come off flustered inosine, try giving them a direction, like do it again, but do it as if you just robbed the bank and you're afraid you're gonna get caught. Using as if can be a creative way to get to a certain energy you're hoping to feel from the character in the scene. Number three, use verbs. Like I mentioned in the last video. Give them actions to play. Let them do something, not feel something. This encourages the actor to engage with the other actor by doing something. By mocking, bully, punish, seduce, insight, intimidate, threaten, impress, convince, sooth, nail, crush, poison, worn, accuse, blame, the light, provoked Laughter. These are all playable actions and they allow the actor to create from within. 7. Things to do - Part 2: Number four, give them business. Sometimes when I see a film made by a new filmmaker or in an experienced director, one thing I notice is the actors are sometimes just simply standing in a room talking to each other. And inexperienced director may not see a problem with this. However, a film goer, we'll notice that something's off. In life, people do things while they're talking to each other, doing dishes or sorting through some male, even just playing on your phone. People do things while they're having a conversation. If you're directing a scene and you could tell the dialogue just seems forced and unnatural. It could be because the actors are too focused on the dialogue itself. Give them business, give them something in the scene to focus their attention on rather than the dialogue. Have them making a cup of coffee or putting some items into a backpack to head off to school. These kinds of actions can give their character a reason to be in this room at this time and something that their characters are trying to accomplish. And it will help get the actors mind off of what they're saying and onto what they're doing. So the dialog will likely come out a little bit more natural. Number five, moment before. Now it's your job as a film director to help to orient your actors in each scene. What are the facts of the scene? Where did they just come from? What they know or not know in the story at this point. Remember, films are mostly shot out of sequence. There are a million reasons why this could be, which we won't go into in this course. However, it is entirely possible that you could be shooting a scene where a couple breaks up before you shoot a scene where they actually meet. This can be challenging for an actor, especially if they don't have a good understanding of where their character is in the story. So helps set up the scene before the cameras roll. Remind them of the stakes and help them find the conflict in the scene. Number six, make sure they are listening. As a director, it's important to watch the actors closely. However, make sure you're not just watching the actor who was speaking, but you are also paying close attention to the actor who was not. Make sure the actors are listening to each other, not simply standing there waiting to say their next line. A lot of inexperienced actors are so focused on what they need to do. And say in a scene, they are totally disconnected to their scene partner. And too many inexperienced directors don't know to look for this. If you can tell an actor is not really listening to their scene partner. Well, between takes, take that actor aside and have a little chat with them. Remind them to listen to what they're seeing. Partner is saying. Repeat some of the other actor's lines to them and say to them, in this scene, your scene partner says, they hate. Well, let that affect you, let it scare you, let it hurt you inside. I'm a big fan of the miser technique. Sanford Meissner's a very well-known acting instructor who passed away in 1997. He developed the training technique that focuses on connecting actors by repeating each other and reacting to one another. I won't go into too much of that here. Again, the director is not an acting teacher. However, I do encourage you to do some research on the different types of act in training like my XNA. I also encourage anyone who wishes to be a director. To get in some acting classes, it'll really help you to learn the language of actors. And if you notice your actor seems disconnected in a scene or they're not listening, this might give you some tools to deal with that. Number seven, Compliment, complement, complement. It's important that an actor feels that you, the director, or their biggest fan, compliment them every chance you get. They can do no wrong. Because like I said before, there are no rights and wrongs. If an actor does something that you don't like. So what? Don't treat it as a failure to meet your expectations. Treat them as your hero for trying something new. It's okay to be open and honest with the actor. And if he didn't like it, say, I don't think that's working. In fact, that's what I'm encouraging. I'm not saying you lie to them and tell them you love everything they're doing. If something isn't working, tell them. That's just it. Tell them. I just don't think that that's working. You could still compliment them and tell them how great they are doing by still letting them know that something isn't working. The important thing is you don't give them the impression they did something wrong. There is no wrong. Have I said that before? But let me say it again. There is no wrong. You can try anything in filmmaking. It doesn't matter if you don't like it. Don't use it. As a director, it's all about trust. Your actors need to trust you, trust that you have their best interests in mind. The best interest of the project as a whole. When you tell them you think they're doing great, they need the trust that too. If you have a relationship with your actors that is really built on trust and a trust your leadership. You're going to find that your actors are willing to push a little harder and go a little further for you. They'll try things outside the box knowing that if they fall flat, you're still going to be there and be their biggest fan. Because listen, acting is hard for people to have never worked in our industry. They, they may not fully understand this. People outside the industry may stand in front of their bathroom mirror and recite some lines from their favorite movie and maybe even muster up a tear and say, yeah, this isn't so hard I can be an actor. But trust me, things can really change and feel a lot different when there are dozens, if not hundreds, of crew members standing around staring at you, waiting for you to say your lines correctly. While all the time knowing that yes, time is money. And if you don't get the scene right soon, the whole day will be shot and there'll be your fall. Yeah. It's hard. It can be stressful. And as an actor, you can feel completely vulnerable. So Compliment, complement, complement. Let them know how great of a job they're doing because you know why they are recapping things to do. Remember to make everything a conversation. Use the magical as if. Use verbs, give them business. Remind them of the moment before. Make sure they are listening. And of course, don't forget. Compliment, compliment, compliment. 8. Other things to try: Here are a few other things you could try when working with actors. Take the emotional direction at of a script. As an independent filmmaker, you may mostly be directed material you've written. However, either way, one thing can be helpful is going through your script and look for words that describe how the character is feeling and get rid of him. Having words like angry, excited, crushed, can be helpful when reading a script for the first time. Or when giving the script to someone who may want to help with funding or promotion. However, you may want to analyze if those words are good for your actors to see in the final shooting script. Who are these words for? At this point, you as the director, should already know what you're looking for a neat scene. And if an actor is doing their homework, they will likely already have a good idea if their character should be angry or excited given the circumstances of the scene. It's not a hard role. Of course, if you noticed, I'm trying to explain that there are no hard rules. Sometimes these type of words won't matter if you take them out or not. And they may actually be helpful in certain circumstances. However, look for opportunities to not force your actors to feel emotions, but allow them to come up with the appropriate emotions themselves. Be opened. A dialog changes. Again, if you're the writer, it makes the suggestion a whole lot easier. In my view, screenplays are not etched in stone like a book or play. They're more like a blueprint. Now, I have an enormous respect for screenwriters. So I'm not suggesting you as the director can just change every little word for no reason at all. Whoever wrote the screenplay likely spent a lot of time thinking about every little word in there. So if you're going to change something, you better have a good reason to do it. However, most screenwriters understand that this is likely to happen. There are some situations that when you're on set, they just don't work the same way as they're written in the script. I've had situations with my own writing that seemed to work fine in the script. But once I hear those certain lines coming out of an actor onset, they just don't seem to work as well. I've tried asking the actor, How do you think your character would say this? Where I've taken the line out completely or ask the actor to do it again with the line. But don't say the line, simply say the line with a look. The point is, you need to stay open to what's happening in front of you. Now what you planned on would happen. Warm-ups can help. Think about ways you can do some warm ups with your actors. Again, this will help if you had some acting training yourself, play games like zips, abs op, or some other acting warm-ups. It's not something you're going to have time for every day of the shoot, but if you can fit it in, it could be helpful. Try and take some of those action words we talked about earlier and get the actors to play off of each other. This can be helpful to get them in a playful mood. Using only gibberish words, not actual words or dialogue, ask an actor to seduce their warm up partner, or ask them to accuse their warm up partner. Again, taking the words out. By taking the words out, the actors are focused on using their bodies and their emotions. Calling action appropriately. Yes, everyone wants to call action and cut onset. It's fun, right? However, make sure when you do this, you are doing it in the appropriate way to the senior shooting. If you're shooting a quiet, emotional love scene, don't yell action, like you're directing a fight scene or Cauchy's. And likewise, if you're directing a scene with high-energy, make sure you call action with the same intensity. You as the director have a chance here to set the pace of the scene ahead of time. It's a very small detail when directing on sand, but it's worth paying attention to. Remember to work on the subtext of the scene. And what do I mean by subtext? If you're not familiar with the word subtext, it's simply means the underlying theme in a piece of writing. Actors can read a script and memorize their lines. But what does that dialogue really mean? If there's a line in a script where one actor says to another, Hey, it was good to see you. Well, you could take that at face value. Maybe it was simply good to see them. Or you can work with the actor to find the subtext of what that actually means. In life. People don't always say what they're thinking, and neither do characters and films. When the character says, It was really good to see you. Maybe what they're really saying is, I will always love you. Or maybe what they're saying is while this was really uncomfortable, or perhaps the character knows that this is probably the last time they're ever going to see this person. And what they're really saying is, I want to thank you for everything you've ever done. Yeah, there could be a lot packed into this one little line. So working with your actors to find the subtext can help give meaning behind the dialogue. This way, the actors not simply saying words from a page, they are living a life in front of the camera. Allow actors to be comfortable. Okay? You're the director. This is, you're sad. You should have the ability to create whatever kind of vibe onset you bought. High-energy, playful, creative, heavy, and emotional. It's up to you. Some days may be heavy and others not. A feature film I direct it was based on a pretty heavy subject matter. However, not every scene was a deeply emotional seen. Some scenes were fun, light, and even romantic. On those days, it was important to keep the mood light and fun because on the other days, they were much heavier. I was directing a scene that dealt with the September 11th attacks. And on that morning, I made sure to ask everyone to keep the jokes to a minimum. I announced that this was a serious subject and one that we needed to treat with respect. I took aside some of the main characters in the scene and we huddled in a corner and we watch some really graphic videos of the attacks. It was somber and it was what the morning needed. Once the scene was done shooting, we all breathe the sigh of relief and we all just allowed the day to get a lot lighter from there. On another film that I was shooting, I made the mistake of not allowing my lead actor onto the set. That was to be his bedroom until moments before the cameras were set to roll. Now, this was a low-budget independent feature film, so time was very short. We had just dressed the set moments before, so we had to move. However, this actor was playing someone that was a bit of a loner and someone that spent a lot of time in their bedroom. Once we started shooting, it was pretty apparent that the actor didn't have time to feel comfortable in that space. I rushed him into quickly. Now, time was definitely short, so I could have just pushed on and kept shooting. But we both decided we needed to take a break. I cut and I send everyone out of the room except for the actors. We didn't do anything. We just sat quietly in his space for a little while, got comfortable. Once we resumed shooting, the actors were much more connected and believable in the scene. So again, it's your set. You want everyone to feel comfortable, but no one needs to feel more comfortable than the actors if they feel supported and comfortable to create. Well, you've done your job. 9. The Recap: Being a film directors, not math, there is no right way to do things. And working with actors is not a one size fits all. Because not all actors are the same. What works with one actor may not work with another. Some actors might want to talk for hours about backstory and character development. While other actors will do their own homework and they may need to be left alone a lot more to get into a creative space. It's your job as the director to recognize how an actor works best and then help them where they need it. Remember that you are not a genius. I mean, you might be, I don't know you. But one thing that I do know is your actor may be a genius as well. And if you get on set and just dictate every little direction to everyone without opening yourself up to listening to others. You may miss someone else's Genius. And that goes for anyone on sand. Everyone has something, they had a script soup, a PA. All could have great ideas. Be open to it. Now, there is a time and a place for sharing ideas. You are the director. So don't allow anyone onset to give direction directly to the actors besides you. But be open to suggestions wherever they come from and get some acting experience. Going into a class or two, take a workshop, go to one audition. It'll really help you as a director to know what it feels like for an actor in front of the camera when all eyes are on you. It'll also helped to speak the same language as an actor. And it'll help them to understand that you know what they're going through. And I'll just stop with this course. Keep researching the best ways to work with actors. You can start with this book right here, directing actors by Judith Weston. And this is one of the first books that I got when I started getting serious about working with actors. And it's probably still the best. Judas does a wonderful job in this book and breaking down the actor's process and how best to communicate with them. There are a lot of different techniques and opinions on this subject. So go out there and find out what works best for you. Directing actors isn't a mystery, and it doesn't need to be a puzzle. Either actors want to give the director what he or she is looking for. However, they also want to have some creative license of their own. So talk to them. The more conversations you have leading up to shooting, the more you and your actors will understand how each other works. It's not beating yourself up. I know you've always wanted to be a film director. But deep down inside, you worry if you have what it takes, what that's nonsense. You do. You gotta make mistakes. You're going to say the wrong thing to enact or onset and totally throw them off. You're going to come across a question on set that you really don't know how to address. Be humble, be willing to learn. I'm willing to bet that even the most experienced directors come across a new challenge from time to time. Like I said, you know what? That's where the magic happens. The key is to stay calm and rely on your preparation. And oh yeah, I know your script. You should know that script inside and out more than anyone onset. When you're in charge of directing actors. Remember, it's important to keep it true. You need to be trustworthy, reliable, understanding, and encouraging. Yes, 90% of directing a film is casting. But a whole lot goes into that last 10%. You could take a great script with a talented cast and still with a weak director, the films going to suffer. However, if you stay open and honest with your actors and respect their craft, well, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Thanks for watching this course and good luck. That's a wrap.